Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: American Ethnological Society
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Science
Secondary Theme: The Political
From their political lives to their ethical care, as potent sites of memory work and scientific inquiry, dead bodies have consistently captured the anthropological imaginary, inviting us to think about the generative force of death and its corporeal traces. This panel shifts the gaze away from the body per se, with all its affective materiality and symbolic valence, and instead focuses on the infrastructures, industries, even economies that manage bodies and, by extension, death and its attendant ruptures. Whether in times of crisis, conflict, or its aftermath, or as part of more quotidian, life-course events, we explore how bureaucratic systems of processing bodies can discipline states of mourning, requiring and channeling capital to superimpose order on the ultimate “matter out of place.” How do bureaucracies arise and infrastructure flourish around the dead? What happens when capital dries up or when certain bodies expose failures in protocol, management, and governance? These systems exist within larger social structures and in studying them we see too how certain lives (certain bodies) garner more investment; in this sense, how dead bodies are managed, processed, and disposed often reflects the inequities and hierarchies the deceased themselves faced in life.